If you are a fan of hockey in Motown, then this a very good date for you. One of the National Hockey League’s most unique traditions began 69 years ago. One of the greatest regular seasons came to an end and plenty of Stanley Cup Playoff history was made. Let’s take our daily trip back in time to see all the best April 15 has given us over the years.
A Busy Date for the Detroit Red Wings
On April 15, 1937, the Red Wings became the first U.S.-based NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons. Goaltender Earl Robertson, who started the postseason in the minor leagues, earned his second straight shutout with a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers. He was called up after Normie Smith was injured during the Red Wings’ semifinal series. Robertson had never played in the NHL before this and did not play for Detroit again after this game.
This game is also remembered because referee Mickey Ion awarded Alex Shibicky of the Rangers the first penalty shot in Stanley Cup Final history. Robertson made the save to make sure he wasn’t the first goaltender to allow a penalty-shot goal in the Stanley Cup Final. That distinction goes to Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes who gave up a penalty-shot goal to Chris Pronger in 2006.
One of the most unique and slimiest traditions in all of sports started on April 15, 1952, when the Red Wings become the first team to win the Stanley Cup without losing a playoff game. Terry Sawchuk earned his fifth career postseason shut as Detroit beats the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 to go a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs.
The Cusimano brothers, store owners in the nearby Eastern Market, threw an octopus onto the ice with each of its legs, symbolizing the eight wins needed to win the Stanley Cup. Little did they know, they started a tradition that still goes on to this day, even though a team has to win 16 games for the ultimate prize.
On April 15, 2000, the Red Wings beat the Los Angles Kings 8-5 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The teams combined for six goals in the first 6:56 of play, the fastest six goals to start a playoff game since modern record-keeping began in 1943-44. Martin Lapointe scored his first career playoff hat for the Red Wings in the victory.
Brett Hull made playoff history on April 15, 2004, while wearing a Red Wings uniform. He had the game-winning goal in the 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators.
It was the 24th game-winning playoff goal of his career, tying Wayne Gretzky for the most in league history. Their record still stands today and is in no real danger of being broken. The active player with the most game-winning playoff goals is Patrick Marleau, with 16.
Historic 1992-93 Season Comes to an End
The 1992-93 regular season was one of the craziest in NHL history. An influx of exciting and talented players from Europe increased the scoring league-wide, and records fell all over the place. On April 15, 1993, Teemu Selanne finished off the greatest rookie season in the league with a goal and an assist in the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
Selanne scored 76 goals and 132 points, which are both still rookie records. However, Selanne was not alone at the top of the goal-scoring list. Alexander Mogilny of the Buffalo Sabres scored his 75th and 76th goals of the season, in a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, to finish tied with Selanne.
Jeremy Roenick made his own history that night too. He scored his 50th goal of the season, in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, to become just the second member of the Chicago Blackhawks to ever have back-to-back 50-goal seasons. He and Bobby Hull remain the only two players to do it. In fact, they are two of just three players to ever have 50 goals in a season for the Blackhawks, with the third being Al Secord.
Luc Robitaille of the Kings scored a goal and added three assists to set an NHL single-season record for most points by a left wing. His 125 points during the 1992-93 season remain the most by any player at the position.
Not everybody benefited from the increased scoring during the 1992-93 season. The San Jose Sharks lost 7-3 to the Calgary Flames to finish the season 11-71-2. Their 71 losses remain the most by any NHL team in a single season. Oddly enough, the only other team to lose 70 games in a season was the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators, who went 10-70-4.
Stanley Cup Playoff Odds & Ends
On April 15, 1969, Jacques Plante and the St. Louis Blues beat the Kings 4-0. Red Berenson tied a record with three goals in the second period, while Plante picked up his 13th career postseason shutout. At the time, he tied the all-time record that Hall of Famer Turk Broda held. Plante retired with 14 shutouts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the seventh-most in NHL history.
The Flyers set an NHL playoff record on April 15, 1976, by picking up 30 penalties in a 5-4 loss in Toronto. The record was broken on April 9, 1981, when the Rangers got hit with 31 penalties in a game against the Kings. The Minnesota North Stars currently hold the record after getting 34 penalties against the Blackhawks on April 6, 1990.
One year later, Rick MacLeish sent Game 3 of the Flyers’ series with the Maple Leafs into overtime with just 38 seconds to play in regulation. He picked up the game-winning goal less than three minutes into the extra time to cut the Maple Leafs’ series lead to 2-1. MacLeish became the first player in NHL history to score a game-tying goal in the last minute of play and an overtime goal in the same playoff game. The Flyers went on to win the series in six games after losing the first two contests on home ice.
On April 15, 1989, Gretzky came back to haunt the Oilers as he and the Kings ended their two-year reign as Stanley Cup champions. He and Bernie Nichols each scored two goals as the Kings erase a 3-1 Oilers’ series lead to knock them out in Game 7 of the Smythe Division Semifinals.
Two lesser-known members of the 1991 Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins made a big splash on April 15, 1991. Goaltender Frank Pietrangelo, subbing for the injured Tom Barrasso, picked the only playoff shutout of his career in Game 7 of the Patrick Division Semifinals against the New Jersey Devils. Jiri Hrdina scored twice in the 4-0 victory to become the first player in NHL history to score the first two postseason goals of his career in Game 7 of the same series.
Happy Birthday to You
Today is a very busy day for NHL birthdays with 33 players celebrating. You could fill out a nice birthday lineup with players like Don Marcotte (74), Tom Laidlaw (63), Keith Acton (63), Kevin Lowe (62, Hall of Fame), Kevin Stevens (56), Jimmy Waite (52), Tim Thomas (47), Sergei Krivokrasov (47), Pavel Kubina (44), Ilya Kovalchuk (38), Cam Janssen (37), Jordan Weal (29), Calvin Pickard (29), Christian Fischer (24) and the late Jim McFadden.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.